Tuesday, February 14, 2017


{ A favorite from the best Tumblr: Fly Art Productions }

It's that time of year again! In 2015, it was the Dating Manifesto. In 2016, I hit you with the Drake Guide to Dating. This year, the Year of Our Lord 2017—I feel obligated once again to take stock of my current attitude towards love, relationships and when it applies, the lack thereof. 

2016 was an interesting year for me romantically, but I honestly think I spent more time writing about dating than I spent actually dating. (Scoot over to Style Girlfriend to check out 5 Ways to Boost Your Confidence Before a Date, 10 Ways to Impress A Woman and 3 Style & Grooming Hacks to Try on Your Next First Date for proof.)

So here we are, it's Valentine's Day! (Dun dun dun!) The internet is practically bursting at the seams with relationship and dating advice this month, so figured I'd better to do my part to contribute to the noise. (Need gift ideas for your main man? Or the guy you just started dating? How about just for you?)

At this point, I'm quite good at coming up with advice that I have a hard time following myself, but it's never something that just comes to me out of the vacuum of space inside my mind. My friends, our conversations, and the romantic experiences we've all had are what help me articulate the tips and tidbits you read here.

Which brings me to my point: Is there anything new to say about dating in 2017? Has anything really changed in the last couple of years? I can't say for sure. I have a hard time distinguishing between actual changes in the broad sense and my shifting attitudes that are tied to my personal experience and of course, my age.

Nevertheless, I persisted. I grilled my friends and mined my own heart for ideas and advice that feel (at least somewhat) fresh right now. From mentality shifts to shifting locations, I hope you find these little nuggets (as arbitrary as they probably are) to be somewhat helpful.


{ The Ferris Bueller approach to dating, you might say. }

One of the most important things I've learned in all this dating I've done is that when you're single, 90 percent of all dating situations are what I would call "low stakes." Until you're like a month or two into something, everything is still the beginning. No matter how hard you might be crushing on a new flame—if it ends, if he or she ghosts, if he or she does something that triggers that little red flag in your mind—you will be fine! You will get over it. (The person may linger in your mind like a hanging chad, but trust me, the wound will cauterize and heal faster than you think.)

So here's my advice: Next time you're at a crossroads and unsure what to do or say in the context of a new relationship, pause and ask yourself what you really have to lose. Remember that you are far more likely to regret the stuff you don't do, than the stuff you do.

Send the second text in a row. Ask the question that's keeping you up at night. Randomly invite your crush over for Game of Thrones and chill.

{ You're better than this. }

Okay so, The Infatuation recently put together an awesome list of progressive date ideas, which partly inspired this advice. However, the true inspiration comes from the awesome, well-planned progressive dates I've been on here in the city.

Start with drinks then go around the corner for dinner, or reverse it and end your pasta-fueled night tucked into a cozy jazz bar with two Old Fashioneds. The point is the second destination—that's where you earn your thoughtfulness / taste level / ability-to-make-a-plan bonus points.

The ideal progressive should be walkable—no more than a few blocks from one destination to the next—and the two spots should complement each other. Ramen and sake, tacos and Tecate, steak and whiskey... You get the idea.

Spoiler alert: This goes against most of the modern dating advice you will read anywhere else. Apparently it's called "spamming" and it's quite disingenuous. But guess what? I don't care!

This is not my way of saying sincerity is dead. However, I do think that sincerity should be reserved for occasions when it will be appreciated. Here's my secret: When I start conversations on Bumble, for example, I send the same message to every guy in that batch of matches and just change their name. I have had great success with three waving hand emojis and a simple, "How's it going, [insert name here]?"

Or skip the chatter altogether and send each guy a friendly gif. (There's science to prove that this is an effective technique, by the way.) My current favorites? The above bear and the Kelly Kapowski wave

Here's my defense: App dating is exhausting. This is just one way to make it a little less stressful on yourself. I can't tell you how many times I took precious moments out of my day (like 15 minutes, I kid you not) to craft some witty, thoughtful intro to a guy only to get radio silence in return. Cut your losses, take back those 15 minutes and copy/paste your way to your next first date.

*I wrote a whole article for Verily about online dating intro lines and you can read it here!

This piece of advice comes straight from one of my guy friends. As it happens, I was working on a story for Verily magazine about fun and creative ways to introduce yourself when you're app dating. As I mentioned above, I have gotten in the habit of sending the same thing to everyone, which isn't exactly, what one would call... Creative. So, I did what any good reporter would do: I asked someone who had managed to glean an actual relationship out of an app what I should say.

Along with a personal message about a photo or something in their profile (barf!), he mentioned that "dad jokes" always went over well. Naturally, I proceeded to Google "best dad jokes" and then sent a bunch of them to my current Bumble matches.

Friends, I am here to report that, "Want to hear a joke about paper, [insert name here]?" is about 85 percent more effective than, "Hey [insert name here], I love to ski too! What's your favorite place to shred?" How do I know? Because I, a University of Arizona graduate, used that very line to get myself a date with a Harvard man. Harvard!

(PS: The answer to that paper joke is, "Nevermind, it's tearable.")

You guys, we have no idea what it's actually like to be Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds or insert celebrity couple name here. Seeing pictures of them looking at each other lovingly on the red carpet is not #goals. That's posing. That's PR. That's a carefully crafted moment designed for the internet. Never forget that as funny as she is, Chrissy Teigen's brand is "sexy, self-aware wife of John Legend and mother to adorable baby." She's never not trying to remind you of that.

More importantly, that Instagram photo posted by a girl you went on a group trip with that one time two years ago and her really attractive and smily boyfriend that's like, so cute, is definitely not #goals. Do not let the internet fool you into thinking that everyone is happier or more fulfilled than you are because spoiler alert—they aren't.

{ He cries in pretty much every episode. I love it.}

So as a general rule, I am not really "into" reality TV. In the same way that I prefer novels to non-fiction books, I like my television with a heavy dose of escapism, or at the very least, thoughtful dialog. The Bachelor has neither of those things, really, but there is one aspect of this season that I have come to find particularly endearing: Nick has been very directly breaking up with a lot of women.

Many of these send-offs could have been saved for the much less dramatic dismissal of the rose ceremony—yet he's sent girls home in the midst of a group date on pretty much every episode. Whether or not this is at the producer's suggestion we may never know, but if we suspend our skepticism for a moment, it appears that he's earnestly trying to find someone he could actually love, and doesn't want to waste the time of the women with whom he doesn't feel a connection.

Watching him sit these women down and try to explain that he doesn't feel a connection to them makes me so uncomfortable. It brings memories of my most upsetting break-ups flooding back to me—which is why it feels so believable to watch. I recommend tuning into this 2-hour manufactured drama machine simply to get hot tips on how to break up with someone. Seriously! Tune in to The Bachelor, resist the urge to send that long-winded text, buck up, and then set a date to sit on a couch somewhere and end things in person. You'll be better for it.

{ Just be your naturally wonderful self, you know? }

"I actually don't drink before the date," one friend told me. I found this to be shocking, quite honestly. So I asked her to elaborate. She obliged.

"I don't like showing up tipsy because I like to ease into the date authentically so we can actually get to know each other. If I show up tipsy I'm already happy and curious about what's going to unfold, which equates to being fine talking to the wall, or the chair, or a rude date, or a super late date... Basically it's not conducive to truly knowing how the date is going. So instead of pre-date drink, I switch my mind into 'date night mode' by brushing my teeth, applying lipstick and patting myself on the back."

That actually makes a lot of sense, doesn't it? I'm usually a big supporter of the pre-date whiskey neat just to steady your nerves a bit... But perhaps we need those nerves after all!

Oh god. Just, my god. The time I have wasted in romance and beyond—wondering and worrying and plotting excuses for people and their behavior. I could write a book about it, and I bet you could, too. When people don't say and do the things we hope they will, it can trigger something inside us. The part that justifies, downplays and normalizes the behavior that disappoints and upsets us. 

When the guy who just got out of a long relationship says he's having fun but not ready for anything serious, believe him. When the girl you're seeing seems to be picking fights out of nowhere in order to create drama? She is.

For better and for worse, people will show you how they feel and how they treat the people in their lives, and they will show you very plainly. When they do, accept it as fact. If it makes you feel good, embrace it! If it makes you feel bad, if it makes you doubt your self-worth—get to stepping!

I have found that one of the best things I've been able to do for my mental state as a single person (and a woman, and a writer) is to add podcasts into my daily routine. I listen to a lot of them somewhat sporadically, but the four listed below are some of my longtime obsessions. Each one approaches love in a different way, and I've found great inspiration, joy, laughter and understanding through listening.
  • Unqualified with Anna Faris: This podcast has blown up in the last few months, and I can't recommend it enough. While at times rambling and ambling—Anna and her celebrity guests (including her husband Chris Pratt) provide surprisingly introspective, smart and self-aware dating advice to callers. They also do a lot of silly "bits" and reveal some pretty interesting, candid tidbits about what it's like to be famous.
  • Modern Love: We're all familiar with The New York Times column by now I'm sure—but I also think the podcast is worth a listen. Celebrities read essays new and old, and the authors call in with updates from the months and years since their work was published.
  • Sex Lives: This New York magazine podcast has had many iterations since I started listening a couple years ago. Currently, it's hosted by Maureen O'Connor and explores a whole myriad of topics. She and her guests discuss everything from the state of the modern lesbian to sex robots and arranged marriage.
  • Dear Sugar: Oh my god—my love for Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond knows no bounds. Their "radical empathy" approach to love and relationship advice is so smart, kind and robust, you can't help but be inspired to let some of their understanding and intelligence into your heart whenever a problem arises.

{ Like Romeo + Juliet, but with less suicide. }

I feel like there's all kinds of advice out there about how you should behave if you're looking for a long-term partner. Some of it includes only pursuing people and situations with staying power. If I only pursued guys that immediately seemed to have "long term love" written all over their face I'd have to change my address to Nun York City.

I think every person that comes into your life arrives for a reason, and that you can learn something about yourself (and what you want in love) from everyone. Some people fill needs, some teach lessons, and some are there to be a comforting warm body on a cold night. As long as you're emotionally equipped to be content with whatever "definitely not forever" situation you find yourself in—I say embrace it with both arms and kiss it straight on the mouth.

{ You're not Paul Newman and this isn't and old timey movie. }


Sitting might be the new smoking, but smoking is also still the old smoking. I can't really believe this is something I'm suggesting earnestly in 2017, but it is. I mean, if you're in a loving and committed relationship and cigarettes are a part of it for both of you—by all means go ahead and die a premature death together.

But everybody else... Can we not? I can tell you from personal experience that the smell of your cigarettes will seep through your skin days later and accost the person who is resting their head in your shoulder nook, causing them to question just what, exactly, they're doing in that nook in the first place.

{ Marcia was such a hater. }

One girlfriend told me recently, "High expectations are good, but make sure the foundation for your standards are solid." 

Whoa. So true, right? She went on to say, "It’s easy to judge and categorize people from the get go. Saying to yourself, 'My friends won’t think he or she is cute or that their job isn’t the most prestigious…' That stuff only matters on the outside. Is he or she a good human overall? Do you see potential? Do they fulfill some of the basic line items from the beginning? I say give it a shot and follow your intuition, not your ego!”

There you have it. This advice feels especially relevant to me right now as we spend more and more time trolling people's social media presence and making wholly unsubstantiated assumptions about their life and their partners based on photos and captions. It's fun, certainly, but no exactly fair. Who cares if your pics cause your friends to comment "#relationshipgoals" or not? (Refer back to tip #5.)

{ Cher was a woman ahead of her time. }

One of the most interesting social developments of the past year (at least to me) has been the inescapable tide of political chatter in ever social setting I've found myself in. Even the least political people you know—myself probably included—have been forced to think deeply and feel passionately about who our 45th president is, and what he is doing to our country. Before 2016, I could probably count on one hand the number of people with whom I'd had a thoughtful political conversation. Now, the opposite is true.

Personally, I feel like I'm inundated on an hourly basis with political updates right now. I am distracted at work and constantly just a little bit on edge. I'm doing my best to stay informed and wrote recently about my desire to do more. But at some point, you need to give yourself a break, right? For your health, for your spirit, for your personal happiness. Perhaps it's a long run listening to music, or practicing meditation. Or, perhaps you just want to sit in a dimly lit bar next to an attractive person and talk about skiing and your family pets and how bad the ending of The OA was. And I think that's perfectly acceptable.

*I invite you to read more about my feelings about politics on dates in this Verily article right here.

I wrote about this a little bit over on Verily last month, and not surprisingly, it came up amongst my friends, too. I think the whole 'treat yourself to nice underpinnings' thing has as much to with being a grown 30-something woman as it does with knowing that feeling sexy—in life, on a date, on your couch—has very little to do with whether or not a guy sees you in your underwear on the reg. As one friend put it, "Wear fancy underwear. Just do it. He may never get to see it—but you will know you've got those lacy fun things on and really, that's all that matters."

{ When you and your date hit that sitting-side-by-side stride. }

Did you know that certain restaurants, like Raoul's, only serve their burger at the bar? Sitting at the bar is such a boss date move—even if there isn't a special menu. You sit closer, there's leaning, there's shoulder touching and it's always more fun to chat with a bartender than a server. (Sorry, servers!) It also feels a little less formal than a table, doesn't it? I think the more casual seating arrangement is conducive to a more relaxed, comfortable conversation, too. I can't say exactly why, I guess—I think it is largely due to the body proximity—but I can say with 100 percent certainty that all of the best dates I have ever been on have involved eating while perched on a stool. 2017: The year of bar dining!

*Not sure where to go to enjoy a date-worthy bar seat in New York City? Glad you asked! Try: Bar Sardine, Raoul's, the annex next door to Supper, Blue Ribbon Downing Street, Allswell, Le French Diner, and Minetta Tavern, for starters.

Sorry, sorry sorry but I couldn't not, right? I am mostly a fashion writer after all. I talk about this at length over on Style Girlfriend, and I brought it up in my '10 Things A First Date Should Be' post a couple of years ago, too. In fact, here's exactly what I said:
I'm a big proponent of honoring an occasion. Just because a first date is easier to procure than it has ever been before doesn't mean we should forget the power of the word "date" all together. This is a meeting built on the potential for romance, flirtation and courting. Putting your best self forward is important, and so is making a great first impression. Like it or not, that impression is largely shaped by how you dress. The point I'm making isn't to try and be stylish if that's not your thing—always be yourself. But, be yourself and a little fancy. If you don't want to wear a dress (I rarely do), go with a silky, pretty top and skin-tight jeans. For the guys, wear a sweater or collared shirt with slim-fitting pants and shoes that are not sneakers. Easy enough, no?
I can't put it better these two years later, so I'll leave it at that.

{ Me, writing this last piece of advice. }

In these trying times, we have been forced to come face-to-face with some truly saddening celebrity break-ups. I was most personally affronted by the separation of my favorite together-forever-so-chill-about-not-getting-married couple Joshua Jackson and Diane Kruger. Others were very impacted by the split of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Some were even shocked that the relationship between Bella Hadid and The Weeknd did not blossom into a love story for the ages. When you put all your emotional eggs into the celebrity love basket, you just can't be surprised when most of them crack.

Then there's Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson. These two have been married for 29 years. I'm not going to blow up my own #relationshipgoals tip here at the very end, but I have to say that their low-key love appears to be pretty damn real. Why? They don't seem to front about it too much. They're like your friend's parents (or mine!) who have been together forever because, just, of course they have. Tom told People magazine in 2015

"We just like each other. You start there."

Works for me.

PS: You know what else he said? "No one should get married before they're 30." Sigh. Tom Hanks, the dating guru for 2017 we never knew we needed.


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